North Korea’s recent test-launch of three short range ballistic missiles has apparently failed to provoke a militant reaction from Washington or Seoul. This would seem to indicate that the most intense phase of America’s campaign of intimidation against Pyongyang has ebbed, albeit perhaps temporarily.
South Korea earlier today said that the nature of the North Korean launches which used short range rather than medium or inter-continental ballistic missiles, is a sign that Pyongyang may be ready to engage in dialogue with other international powers.
Shortly after South Korea’s statement, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the following,
“We do view it as a provocative act against the United States and our allies … We’re going to continue our peaceful pressure campaign, as I have described it, working with allies, working with China as well to see if we can bring the regime in Pyongyang to the negotiating table with a view to begin a dialogue on a different future for Korean peninsula and for North Korea”.
While the US has yet to acknowledge its position on the joint Sino-Russian peace plan which calls for military de-escalation on both sides of the 38th parallel as well as direct talks between Pyongyang and Washington, Tillerson’s statement is at minimum, indicative of an approach to North Korea that refrains from overt military threats. Trump’s days of threatening “fire and fury” upon Pyongyang seem to be behind us as things gradually calm down.
In this sense, until Washington and Pyongyang speak directly, the conflict is best thought of as a stalemate where if anything Pyongyang has the upper hand due to China and Russia’s thorough opposition to war on their borders.